As so many others living with chronic conditions, I have admittedly become addicted to shows with a focus on hospital life and healthcare as a whole. For some, I imagine it gives some kind of feeling of control in a body in which we hold close to none. – For me, it’s the excitement of it all. As someone who went undiagnosed for many years, it’s intriguing to watch a behind the scenes process of it all. – Even if it is pretend. Everything from procedures and surgery to the medical terminology drives my adrenaline up the wall! Leaving me desperately craving the next episode.
The Good Doctor is a show whose primary character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, lives with Autism. As you follow his journey navigating life as a surgeon with a condition that impacts his ability to fully empathize and connect with his patients and fellow physicians, you can’t help but to fall in love with the unique qualities of each character and become hyper interested in the depth of each storyline.
How The Good Doctor Changed My Perspective on Healthcare Providers and The Pandemic
I’ve lived selfishly through this pandemic. Although I am an essential worker, I am also high risk and have, fortunately, had the privilege of working from home during the chaos. Prior to transitioning into a work from home role, as a high risk patient, working for one of the world’s largest banks, I had the luxury of staying home (with full pay) when the COVID spread first became prominent in the US. My (immediate) family wasn’t hit too bad health wise or professionally during this time either. My sister, as a kindergarten teacher, has probably had to adjust the most of us all.
Although my uncle is a nurse, he lives in California and we haven’t talked too much about what his daily life looks like being on separate sides of the country. I imagined he (and any other healthcare provider) are more busy than usual and sure, there was the whole mask shortage and test shortage, but I never fully got the bigger picture.
I commend the producers of The Good Doctor for taking this approach with the show this season. The importance and relevance alone cannot be emphasized enough. Talk about a season premier! The episode was packed full of pandemic drama, but somehow portrayed in a way I never imagined.
* This post may include spoilers *
As we begin the episode, we meet an African American woman who fears she has COVID, but as the virus is still very new and she answers “no” to all of the preliminary questions, she is dismissed by Dr. Morgan Reznick – who has a history of being very direct and by-the-book. While many bits of the episode are left up for interpretation, to me, this spoke to not only the dismissal of black people, more specifically black women, in healthcare, but also to the exclusion of black women in the feminist movement as I cannot help but question if Morgan would have been so quick to dismiss a white woman showing the same symptoms, voicing the same concerns. – Again, up for your own interpretation as the virus was still very new, but my views remain.
Two weeks later, we visit the same woman whose symptoms are much worse and progressing fast. As Dr. Browne continuously speaks to the daughter, we are reminded of how distant the virus has forced us to become. – Both physically and mentally. When Claire and Dr. Lim later explain to the daughter that her mother had passed, you can clearly see the young woman’s need for comfort. The desire to be held. Her body even reaches out at one point. We also see the internal battle Dr. Browne faces as she struggles not to embrace her nurturing nature. A reminder that Dr. Browne also lost her mother to circumstances 100% out of her control. Another reminder of the human in healthcare. Even when earlier advising the daughter it was not safe for her to visit her mother and rejecting the daughter’s efforts to personally deliver her mother a memory from her childhood, Claire’s pain bled through not only in her words, but her body language and even her eyes. This spoke to the mental torture our healthcare providers have to endure during this time. Not only due to the constant loss and inability to heal, but from the inability to even connect with patients and caregivers. With masks covering emotions and 6 foot barriers preventing physical connection, it has to be difficult to stay sane.
In the midst of the hospital chaos, we witness Dr. Glassman battle with demons of his own. For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Glassman is a 65-year-old doctor with a history of Cancer. Going through his Cancer journey alone was enough to leave us all hanging on to the edge of our seats! Can you imagine COVID? Good thing, for now at least, we don’t have to. Dr. Glassman is working from the comfort (or from his perspective discomfort) of his own home. Fighting the urge to return to the hospital and save lives. Although his work is very valid from home, you can clearly see this is not an environment he is going to embrace anytime soon. A strong reminder of the passion and dedication of doctors, nurses and everything in between in the healthcare field!
We follow a few other patients, but one was unique. A patient who emphasizes his desire to avoid the virus, but finally comes to the hospital anyway, presenting with symptoms of his Diverticulitis. He is chauffeured around by one of the hospital’s staff throughout the day when Dr. Reznick finally takes him for a final scan which shows COVID in the patient’s lungs. In shock, Dr. Reznick doesn’t hesitate to make a quick call to the staff member, advising her to put on a mask and letting her know how she has been exposed to the virus. To me, this spoke to the loyalty of healthcare workers. I’ve personally worked in healthcare and can speak from experience when saying you may not always love your colleagues, but you always have their back.
Outside of the Hospital
What really put things into perspective for me was the adjustments these providers had to make outside of work. Although it broke my heart to watch the physicians each struggle with their own battles professionally, posed by Ms. COVID herself, watching as they sacrifice seeing their partners brought me to tears. Dr. Murphy is extremely frustrated with his unmet physical needs. – If you’re a Good Doctor OG, you know, it’s taken Shaun a while to embrace this very thing. When we first met him, he didn’t even want to be hugged! Meanwhile, his new roomie, Dr. Park, who is also distancing from loved ones (by moving in with Shaun) is adjusting to living with him and keeping his loved ones informed and calm. – All while Dr. Andrews enjoys a silent dinner, alone, in the garage of his own home with a photo of his wife and a note on a stand. Another emphasis on the dedication, sacrifice and passion our healthcare providers possess. Another reminder of why these people deserve nothing but our kindness and gratitude.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is all the episode has to offer. I oddly feel as though I haven’t even scratched the surface. Although this is one of my favorite shows (hands down), I don’t think my words could ever do it justice. I highly recommend the Good Doctor, but if you don’t have time for the full series, be sure to check out Season 4 Episode 1. You can stream it on Hulu now!
To our brave and fierce providers risking and sacrificing it all right now: I know I cannot say anything you haven’t already heard at least a million times, but thank you. Thank you for everything you do to keep us safe. Thank you for everything you’ve given up so we don’t have to. You are amazing. YOU are a reminder of all things good in this world.
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[featured image by showbizjunkies]